Oregon School Board, teachers make deal

2.07 percent increase only applies to 2013-14
Scott De Laruelle

With the last weeks of the school year ticking away, the Oregon School Board approved the 2013-14 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Oregon Education Association (OEA) Monday night.

As part of the deal, most educators will receive a 2.07 percent wage increase. The exceptions are a handful of teachers in technology education and agriculture departments who had already received a separate supplemental pay contract for the 2014-15 school year – for some as high as $10,000 – as their positions were deemed to be high demand.

Also, instead of a previous proposal to increase starting salaries of teachers to $38,000, the board opted to take that $51,025 and divide it in a flat dollar amount among the educators who worked in the district this past year who were hired for the 2012-13 school year or earlier (aside from those few who will receive supplemental pay).

The board and OEA had been negotiating since October, with a pause in March, and reached a tentative agreement earlier in the month with the help of Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) mediator Bill Houlihan. The agreement is in effect through June 30.

School board president Dan Krause said he wants to break the board’s recent cycle of negotiating with the OEA for most, if not all of the school year before reaching a deal.

“I’m hoping to get a new bargain done for 2014-15 this month,” he said. “That would really be wonderful. We’d like to capitalize on that momentum.”

Krause said a pending Supreme Court decision on Act 10 may come within the month, which could affect negotiations, but he said that outcome wouldn’t affect the urgency to start negotiations for the 2014-15 school year.

“The sooner, the better, anyway for getting these deals done,” he said. “We don’t want to be bargaining all the time, which is what we’ve been doing the last few years. It’s frustrating.”

Board disagreements

The board voted 5-2 to approve the deal, with members Steve Zach and Jeff Ramin opposed. Zach criticized Human Assets Committee (HAC) members, who led the negotiations, for changing the deal in recent weeks without “having any input from the board, which is against all protocol this board has had in the past.”

“We have not had, as a board, the opportunity to have that change in direction discussed by the board before you agreed to it as a committee,” he said. “We were near a deal on this (in March).”

OEA president Mark Lindsey said Zach “mischaracterized” the nature of the recent negotiation between the OEA and HAC.

“We were not close to an agreement (in March); I don’t know where you come up with that,” he said. “This is a fair agreement that was reached by two parties negotiating in good faith, which was not always the case in the past. Your mandate from the voters in this community was to work with us – this the first time you’ve worked with us.”

Zach was also concerned why the tech ed and agriculture teachers did not also receive the 2.07 percent increase along with the rest of the teachers. Board member Charles Uphoff said OEA officials felt that was the most equitable way of addressing the issue.

“Because of the significant supplemental pay given to a few individuals, they felt it would sort of rub salt in the wound to have additional compensation beyond that, which would essentially come from the remaining teachers,” he said.

Board member and HAC member Rae Vogeler said the agreement was reached “under budget” and after negotiations with the previous board had stalled.

“The OEA was very happy with this, we were very happy with this, (Bill) Houlihan (said) ‘Great job, job well done,’” she said. “It’s showing a sense of us working mutually together with our unionized employees in a respectful way … and a fiscally responsible way for the district.”

Lindsey said the board for too long has been giving pay increases to new teachers at the expense of current ones.

“We won’t stand for it anymore,” he said. “Until we fix total compensation in this district, you cannot (take) from existing teachers to compensate just new ones. It’s unfair.”

New coding class

Citing a national shortage of computer science graduates, the board unanimously approved reinstating a coding/computer science course at Oregon High School.

The pilot program will be based on a Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) model and will offer students a hands-on introduction to computer science, according to information provided by the district.

The course would begin in the fall as independent study under the direction of OHS teacher Bruce Nelson, with hopes to offer a more official course in the 2015-16 school year.

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